Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Drawing by P. Chameron, student of Gerome

I recently found this cast drawing of a young flute player from the mid-1880's by Paul Chameron (1865-1918). This drawing was likely done while Chameron was a student in Gerome's private atelier. However, it is possible this drawing was executed while Chameron studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts under Gerome's tutelage. It is in charcoal on off-white paper, 18x24 inches, with only the white of the paper used to represent the most intense illumination.

Chameron's approach is typical of late-19th century French academic drawing. He finished the face and most of the figure to a very high degree; the tonal gradations are very sensitive, giving the drawing a strong optical effect. At the same time, the shadows are relatively uniform in tone, and the deep background gives a brilliant quality to the light effect.

In contrast to the degree of finish in the face, the feet and lower legs are less developed. Here we see Chameron's preliminary approach, with masses of tones in the light and loose shapes to indicate the structure of the ankle, the arch of the foot, etc.

Chameron tried for the Prix de Rome in 1886. After his study in Paris, he returned to his hometown of St. Maur and began teaching drawing and painting there. His daughter Andree also became a painter.

I was inspired to make the drawing below following Chameron's example:

I used Fabriano Roma paper with vine and compressed charcoal. I utilized the tone of the paper to represent the highest lights in the figure, and carefully applied the tone to represent a range of half-tones in the light, while keeping the shadows more uniform in tone, following Chameron's, and hence Gerome's method. It took me approximately 9 hours to finish the drawing to this degree.

The sculpture is an ecorche figure by Eugene Caudron (1818-1865), called l'Ecorche combattant, from 1845. Caudron conceived of this figure as an instructive model for sculptors and it became very influential as an example of a dynamic composition within the figure. It has been reproduced in many academic drawings, paintings, and instructional lithographs of the 19th century.

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